NEWARK, NJ If Ilya Kovalchuk is any kind of human litmus indicator there should be plenty of emotional spark flying around the Prudential Center tonight in Game 2. Nearly every player from both the Devils and the Kings felt like they could have been much better after Game 1 is over, and they finally get their chance now that Radiohead has cleared out of the Jersey arena.
I dont think any of us can say that we played a good game, said Kovalchuk, who managed just one shot in an invisible performance in his first Stanley Cup Final game. Me personally, I can be much better and I know it. I need to go out and prove it, and show that tonight.
The Devils and Kings did manage to combine for a healthy 79 registered hits in the game, and there were some impressive pockets of physicality. But some of the typical nastiness seen in the final seven games of the playoff hockey season werent there, and only three penalties in Game 1 spoke to a nervous group of hockey players that were largely engaging in a truculent game of shinny.
For the Devils it comes down to finding a way to beat a Devils team with a superstar goaltender in Jon Quick and a wall of defense thats confounded the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes en route to the Finals. Thats a tall task, and a little more emotion is needed from a team full of good, honest hockey players.
Perhaps they can take a page from Dainius Zubrus, who was all over the ice in Game 1 as Jerseys most active player and finished with a game-high eight hits. He was body-checking, flopping, exaggerating hits looking for penalties and doing anything he possibly could to make something happen.
Thats something his New Jersey teammates must embrace as they hope to avoid going back to Los Angeles down 0-2 in an extremely unenviable position in the Cup Finals.
Its an important game and I think were going to respond, said David Clarkson, a Jersey forward that could bring a little more emotional punch to the series. I think anytime a series moves on youre going to see more emotion. Theres a lot on the line for this one. No one is going to back down. Its going to be a battle to the end.
On the other end of the spectrum the Kings know they can put a stranglehold on the series by notching another victory on the road their 10th in a row of the playoffs and potentially close out another team in four or five games.
The first game is kind of a feeling out process in every series weve played in thus far, said Brown. Weve been successful in Game 1 in each of the playoffs and weve come back even hungrier in Game 2 in each of those series. The game will be a much cleaner game in terms of competing better. The ice will be better and people will execute plays better.
The Kings are talking about stone cold execution, and the Devils are talking about hot, fiery emotion. That should be for an interesting second chapter to the Cup Finals series between Jersey and Los Angeles.